Last spring Florence and the Machine released a single, “What Kind of Man,” from their last album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. In the true spirit of Florence, the song begins with haunting, layered voices. The ethereal sound is compounded by the heavy, synthesized chords.
Florence speaks slowly, telling of how she is separated from a man who seems to be indecisive about his choices in life. But by some force, she is pulled to him; their paths cross and they kiss. But this kiss is not an ordinary one as it is passionate enough to “inspire a fire of devotion/that lasts for twenty years.” In these lyrics there is a stress that builds in Florence’s voice as she begins to question the emotion that the kiss has brought upon her.
Experiencing this sensation creates a drama in the song which is reflected by the sudden change in the tempo and musicality. The slow, strung out sound is replaced by a steady beat grooved with the electric guitar, snare drum, and tambourine. Enhancing it further is the echoing singers in the background that has Florence written all over it.
Florence joins back in after a few measures to start really beating in the point on how this man draws her along, keeping her at “cruel angle(s).” She goes on to state that he’s never fully committed to the relationship; he’s always on threshold. Never quite in it and never quite out of it.
After the chorus with the addition of trumpets, the song evolves again as each instrument begins to blend creating a raucous sound. There is even a nod back to beginning flow of the song as she restates the inconceivable emotion that is found in his kiss.
From here she continues to explain the situation. Even though the relationship is damaging and this man is unattached, she can’t get away from it. Every time she tries, she is driven right back to him, “back against the wall.” The music continues to grow until the end, with every instrument and voice locking in, emphasizing the hysterical passion that she feels. Is it love or is it obsession?
This song echoes some of the characteristics of the previous Florence and the Machine album, Ceremonials, but brings a new edge with the brass and clear cut beat. The message of the lyrics can be found true in many relationships, whether it be a man or woman playing the part. It’s difficult to maintain a healthy relationship when only one person is trying. And even worse when it turns into a physical or emotional addiction to make it work.